Solemn Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
Sin makes the soul a slave of the devil and among the sins which makes the soul the worst slave of Satan is the sin of impurity (cf., our post “Vade retro Satana!“) – especially homosexuality: “the basest moral perversion” (St. John Chrysostom in our post “Our Lady, Vatican II Disorientation, and the Annihilation of Many Nations“); but, of all sins it is disobedience that makes the soul like to the proud and rebellious devil! He that hearkeneth to me shall not be confounded, and they that work by me shall not sin…. [For] in me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue… (from the Epistle of the Mass, Ecclus. 24.23-31).
*Of all the virtues, that of which the practice costs the most to man is obedience. To give up our own will, to sacrifice our own judgment, to depend upon another not only as to our way of acting, but even in our way of thinking and judging – and this not with regard to indifferent things, or things of no great consequence, but with regard to things pertaining to our salvation and sanctity – this is something much more difficult than privations, or fasts, or austerities. Obedience attacks a man in that which is dearest to him – in his liberty, in his right to dispose of himself as he likes. It attacks his self-love where it seems to be most reasonable and to have a good foundation. What is more just, apparently, than to judge of things according to our own reason, to guide ourselves according to our own light, and only to defer to that of others as far as we think proper? What seems more revolting to our good sense, at first sight, than to give to another all authority over us in what regards our conduct, to do nothing without his consent, and to execute blindly whatever he advises or commands, without the least resistance even in the depths of our own souls? This sacrifice is, without contradiction, the greatest we can possibly make. It is a universal sacrifice, because it embraces every moment of our lives; and it is the most interesting of all, because it concerns our future life and our eternal happiness.
Now, this is the sacrifice which God especially requires from every soul which aspires to perfection. Yes, He requires it as a condition without which there can be for that soul neither holiness nor true virtue. Whatever she may do if she follows her own will, if she directs herself, if she considers herself the mistress of her own actions, she will never please God, because self-love and her own spirit spoil all her good works. God declared to the Jews, by the mouth of His Prophet, that their fasts were not pleasing to Him because they did them of their own will. Does God desire sacrifices and victims? said Samuel to Saul. What He desires, is it not rather that you should obey His voice? For obedience is better than sacrifices, and to hearken than to offer the fat of rams. These words are of great importance, for they show us that it is obedience before all things which can give any value to what we do, since even the acts of religion have nothing in themselves which can please God unless they are done through obedience.
God therefore requires this virtue of us as the one which is most pleasing to Him, and which gives a particular merit to all the other virtues. To speak more clearly: by the other virtues man gives to God what he possesses, but he does not give himself; he keeps back that which God asks of him above everything else. But by “holy” obedience he gives himself, and he gives himself entirely, for what does a man refuse to God when he sacrifices to Him his liberty, and desires to depend only on Him for all things.
Objection: “If I desire to depend only on God, what need is there that I should obey a man? Is it not sufficient if I listen to the voice of Divine grace, and follow its interior inspirations?”
… In the first place,… Divine grace and Divine inspiration would lead us to submit ourselves to a man because this is the order established by God, Who in spiritual things as in temporal governs us through the ministry of men clothed with His authority. [Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase themselves damnation (Rom. 13.1-2).]… In the second place, that nothing is more dangerous or more exposed to delusion than to constitute ourselves judges as to what are Divine inspirations; and that we shall most certainly go astray if we take for the will of God or the voice of God any stray imaginations which rise up from our heart or pass through our mind. Finally… that in all this there is evidently an insupportable pride, a presumption which God will not fail to punish by abandoning to his own reprobate senses that self-willed person who would not submit himself to the authority which was established to guide him.
Objection: “But why should I submit myself to a man who after all may be deceived, and may lead me wrong?”
The man to whom we submit ourselves holds the place of God: we can have no doubts about it; God has appointed him to guide us in the way of salvation (cf., our post “The ‘Rule’ of Our Lady… IX“). If we place ourselves under his guidance in all good faith, solely with the view of obeying God, we may confidently believe that God will enlighten him, and will give us, through his lips, all the instructions necessary for us. We must believe that God will never allow us to go astray so long as we walk in the way which He Himself has marked out for us, and that His very Providence is engaged in preserving us from error. [It is always supposed here], however, that our Director, in ALL his conversation and his conduct, has never given us ANY reason to suspect his Faith or his piety, or his good life or his capacity; because, if the contrary is the case, then we MUST of course leave him. But when your are once thoroughly convinced that he is a good man and an enlightened man, then you must resign yourself entirely to his guidance, without the slightest fear of running any risks as to your salvation or your perfection. God would never permit such a man to be deceived in anything that was essential, and He would set right, through His infinite goodness, any little mistakes into which he might fall, so that they should hurt neither us nor him. This is what we must believe with a firm faith. Without this, we would be for ever at the mercy of a host of doubts, unease, and scruples; the foundations of our obedience would nothing of firmness and solidity about them; and it would be impossible for us to bear all those temptations and trials, in which God wishes us always to sacrifice our own judgment to that of our Director.
The way of “holy” obedience is then not only a sure way, but the only sure way – the only way where we know God will take care of us, the only way to which He promises His grace and blessing. This way puts the soul in perfect safety, for in everything she does she may reassure herself by saying, “I am not acting of myself, I am not following my own will, I am not governing myself by my own decisions: it is God Who Is guiding me by means of him who is for me the interpreter of God’s will… for then I might be deceived, and take for the voice of God the suggestions of the devil or my own imagination….
This way… gives an infinite value to the smallest things we do, through the principle of “holy” obedience; because even in the smallest things is found that which is greatest of all, and that is the sacrifice of our own will. Wherever God does not see our will, He sees His own; and wherever He sees His own will ONLY, can He possibly see anything that can please Him more?
This way is the way of annihilation, the way of adoration in spirit and in truth, the way of perpetual sacrifice. For what remains to the soul that has no longer either judgment or will of her own? What has she reserved to herself? Nothing: all is sacrificed, all is immolated. God has everything that was once hers, because He has her liberty, and disposes of it as if it were His own.
The merit of obeying a mortal man for God’s sake is so great that it surpasses that of obeying God in His own Person; for if we were to see God, and if He Himself were to communicate His will to us, we should not have the merit [of the supernatural virtue] of faith, and it would cost us nothing then to submit our judgment [reason] to His judgment [Reason] and our will to His will. [Thus,] the practice of “holy” obedience embraces perfectly the practice of all the other virtues. It renders us invincible to the attacks of the devil; it raises us above all temptations and trials; it draws down upon us the choicest graces of Heaven. God can refuse nothing to an obedient soul; He looks at that soul with an extreme complacency; He delights in loading her with His gifts and favors.
“Holy” Obedience therefore is the short way to perfection. Let us attach ourselves to it above all else. Let us neglect nothing which it prescribes for us. Let us take care never to reason about it, nor to try to submit it to our own light: for it is no longer obedience when we seek to know the reason of the commandment. [It is only in this Traditional way of “holy” obedience] must we believe blindly, must we bring our understanding into captivity, must we force all the aversions of nature; and, as soon as ever a thing is commanded us, we must do it, whatever it may cost us [*mostly taken from an untitled writing of Fr. J. Grou, S.I.] – [except our adherence to the true God of our Sacred Catholic Tradition, for they have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the Faith (Rom. 1.5)]. This is the grace we ask Our Immaculate Mother and Queen of Carmel – She who [crushes] the proud and rebellious head of Satan!
A most blessed Feast once more to everyone, especially to our followers!
See “Catholic Resistance, Not Disobedience” and the links under our section “Why Catholic Tradition”